Are you stressed? Most of us have hyperactive minds. Regardless of what we’re doing – eating, driving, or brushing our teeth – our minds are elsewhere. We think about what our neighbour said, feel frustrated about a high heating bill, and fixate on all the tasks to accomplish by tomorrow.
Having a constant train of thought is normal for most adults. It’s often difficult for us to focus on the present moment. For instance, when was the last time you focused on your breath?
Here are the benefits of mindfulness and tips on ensuring it becomes part of your every day.
4 Healthy Benefits of Practising Mindfulness
1. It helps us accept things
Acceptance is the first step to improving any situation. Sometimes there are constructive actions we can take to feel happier, such as talking through a problem with a partner or getting more exercise. In other cases, we have limited options for improving a situation. Learning to take control over what we choose to focus on, we can teach ourselves to experience difficult situations without the additional suffering of dwelling endlessly on them.
2. We enjoy life more
We savor pleasures more when we’re fully present in the moment. Instead of having lingering outside thoughts, we can wholly appreciate our time with loved ones, appreciate the delicious food, and enjoy the blue sky.
3. We become physically healthier
Mindfulness helps us improve heart function, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and aid our digestive issues.
4. Bad things aren’t as bad
This one is a bit of a mind twist. Our stress level isn’t caused by the problem, rather by our thoughts about the problem. Initially it sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true when you think on it for a second. It’s not your ex-partner that stresses you but your thoughts about them sure do.
What Does Mindfulness Look Like?
Mindfulness is being aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and environment in the present moment. Being mindful is also accepting our thoughts and feelings without judgment. It’s when we let go of thinking that our thoughts are ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. When we are mindful, we focus on our senses in the present moment instead of replaying the past or picturing the future.
4 Steps to Help You Be More Mindful
1. Breath mindfully
This exercise is simple and effective. Focus on your in-breath and your out-breath. Feel your chest rise and fall. Be aware of your head, face, and limbs. Take a couple of minutes and simply breathe.
2. Be aware of your traveling mind
Notice when thoughts enter your mind. Recognize that thoughts are simply thoughts – you don’t have to react to them in a live stream fashion. Acknowledge them and set return to the focus on your breathing. You can control when you do and don’t engage with them.
3. Focus on your senses
Really pay attention to your senses. Focus on the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without entering your awareness. Tune into your body’s physical sensations, from the feeling of your fingers resting on your arm to the curve of the chair against your back. Smell the air. Notice your food when you eat. Notice the colour, texture and taste of your meal. Eat part of your meal slowly, noticing every sensation.
4. Simply be
Don’t feel obliged to be doing something all the time. Take some moments to simply be. Sit still or go for a walk. Recognize that your thoughts and emotions do not define you.
Chew on this
Learning to be mindful is hard! The learning curve of mindfulness is large, but the benefits are great as well. Persevere – we can all train ourselves to be more mindful. Here’s another benefit of practicing mindfulness: our brains become better at managing stress and we become calmer even when we’re not actively meditating.